The very old days, people read the tea leaves and watched where communist leaders were placed watching military parades to figure out who was up and who was down in the Soviet Union. Usually, things are more transparent than that in Washington, DC, but with the ďdebt crisisĒ spinning on and on, it might be time to look at the signals coming from the capital.
First, President Obama has made plans to travel to Chicago Tuesday, the day the US will, supposedly, run out of money to meet its obligations. He is planning on coming back to DC that night (unlike his normal practice when in Chicago), but the fact that he is going at all is a clear sign that a deal could be in the works.
Next, Boehner and the hard edged Mitch McConnell in the Senate both issued statements today that they believe the matter will be resolved in time. Do they know something we donít know? The assumption would be that Boehner has spoken enough with the radical faction of the House Republicans that he knows, quite well, what they will accept as a final deal and that he is communicating that to McConnell, who is telling Democratic leader Reid. In other words, yes, it looks like a deal is in the works. Obama presumably has been clued in as well.
Will the matter be resolved in time for a Tuesday signing by Obama? Maybe, but perhaps the radical faction of the Republicans want to let it play out a little longer, until Wednesday or Thursday, just to make a point. (What point? I donít know. This whole thing is a bit of a pointless mess.)
If a deal is made at this time, the 11th hour plus 50 minutes, it is going to look pretty stupid to anyone who is actually paying attention. It is going to make the whole thing seem like political posturing on the part of the radical, tea pot inspired Republicans. In fact, that is just what all of this might have been: political theater.
Consider this: everyone knows the Republicans, who control the House, canít do a damn thing without the Democrats in the Senate and Obamaís signature. They are, in fact, as helpless as toddlers trying to run in the Olympics. when it comes to actually getting something done. They sure can make noise, they surely can make the nation and the world think they are borderline insane, but can they pass anything? No, not by themselves.
The impotence of controlling one house of Congress did not stop the Republicans from carrying out a useless impeachment of Clinton in the 1990s, even though they, the Republicans, knew they didnít have the votes in the Senate. They were perhaps hoping for a miracle? As a political strategy, however, it worked, because they threw up enough dirt and dust around Clinton that his vice-president, Gore, could not successfully carry enough states to win the Electoral College vote (thanks to help from the Supreme Court, too).
So, what has this all been about? As a strategy to change the nature of the debate in America from what we can do to what we canít do, it has worked like a charm. Most of the nation now believes we are in a budget crisis, even though we arenít and, in fact, most of the big problems of debt and budgets are five to ten years down the road, if not more. Obama has not merely tilted toward the Republican view, he has embraced budget cutting in a way that forced the Republicans to reject his plan, because he was taking away too many of their talking points.
Has this all been kabuki theater, a slow, twisting drama without a narrative? Right now, my inclination is to answer that question with a yes. It looks like the Republicans in the House have taken the nation, and the world, for one hell of a rise in a false direction and, having done so, they are now ready to vote to raise the debt ceiling and get on with more important business. They will go back to their home districts, bragging about what they have done and saying that they fought the good fight, but what we need are more people like them, they will say, to stop the mad spending in Washington, DC. All of this to make a point and try to win more political power? What a waste.
Doug Terry. 7.30.11